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Saturday, May 31, 2014

6 new babies have arrived in 18 days? What the heck?

Roy arrived May 30th, 2014
  Ian loves spreadsheets, and he uses them like a Surgeon uses an instrument – precisely, efficiently and effectively.  As we were working on writing a plan to present to our Board of Directors on how we can become self-sustainable (meaning no donor funding required to run Project Canaan, the children’s home etc) we had to calculate how many children we would have by the year 2020.

Up until this month we would tell you that we receive a new baby on an average of every 14.3 days so by 2020 we predicted that we will have 216  children living at Project Canaan. 

In the past 18 days we have received six new babies.  I don’t know why this wave has happened, but I can tell you that there were three more who we were contacted about, who never ended up coming to us (one was taken by the family, one disappeared and one is still being held hostage in an abusive situation with neighbors).  With these new babies we now average a baby every 13.9 days and predict that we will have 232 children at Project Canaan by 2020 if something doesn’t change.

Noah arrived May 28th, 2014
Yesterday I spent an hour, with a Social Welfare officer, two police officers and a court order to remove the child (this is corporately our seventh trip to help this child), but alas, the old lady caring for him scared everyone with threats of witchcraft and curses and we left empty handed.  Minutes later I was called to drive to the other side of the country to get a baby boy and off I went with my dear friend Janice Johnson in the car.

When we arrived at the Social Welfare office we were told that the new baby was born on March 10th and that 23 days later (!!!) the mother dropped him in a pit latrine (outdoor toilet) and left him there overnight, until a neighbor heard his cry and pulled him out.  She is in prison.  There is MASS confusion over paternity so it took six weeks to get a court order to remove the child from the hospital and place him with us while the investigation continues around the terrible situation.

While all of our babies maintain their Swazi names (if they have them), we typically give them a Christian name or name them after someone who was involved with the child at the time of his/her arrival (i.e. Baby Jerry being named after Jerry Coffee).  So this little one is named Roy, after Janice Johnson’s husband (and father to Jessica).  I have no words to properly thank Janice for all she had done in support of Heart for Africa, the Maxwell family and me personally over the years.  Her love, her 8 trips with us and and her wise council has been oxygen to my soul.  It’s hard to properly thank people like Janice, so this is a small way to honor her and her family.

Can't disclose name yet, arrived May 26th, 2014
Back to the babies.

Of the six, here is what happened:

-       one left at a bus stop in Matsapha
-       two found in pit latrines
-       one living on the street
-       two rape cases

Eunice arrived May 21st, 2014
I cannot explain how bittersweet those “do you have room for another baby?” phone calls are.  The “pick ups” are even more bittersweet because I have great joy to be welcoming a little life in to our growing family, but bitter because of the tragic situations that they have come from.

The cost of raising these children is significant as you can imagine. It is estimated that to raise a baby in the US it costs $650 per month, not including childcare or a house to live in, just diapers, formula, clothes, medical expenses etc.  Up until recently we would tell you that it costs us $285 per child per month to raise these precious ones.  This includes Aunties/caregivers, cooks, cleaners/laundry, diapers, formula, clothes, medical expenses, transportation and all other special care needed for many of these children.
Phoebe arrived May 15th, 2014
But today I have some GREAT NEWS!  Our monthly cost has been reduced to $225 per child per month!  Why? Because our awesome team is working on reducing the costs by producing all the milk, yoghurt and cheese that the children eat through the dairy cows on the farm.  They are also actively seeking more cost effective purchasing solutions for large quantity items such as diapers, formula and baby wipes and they are buying fresh fruit and vegetables more frequently and cooking “fresh”, rather than relying on packaged product and/or heavy carb loading.  We are so thankful for our volunteers who have worked diligently to help us reduce our monthly costs on this side, but what we cannot reduce the number of Caregivers that we have as our children are our greatest treasure.

We need help with monthly funding for these six new children, and we need a total of $1,350 per month.  Some people give $100/ month, some give $25/month, some people chose a child they are connected to and provide the total monthly funding for that child. 

Naomi arrived May 12th, 2014.
I am asking today for you to seriously consider sponsoring the children at Project Canaan.   An average of 400 people read this blog every week.  If each of you gave something it would be a long long time until I have to ask you for money again. I would love that (and I am sure you would too).

Live from Swaziland … we have 59 children!  Thanks for your help.


PS  - as a point of interest, we have 33 boys and 26 girls. 

US Monthly support:

Canada Monthly support:

Saturday, May 24, 2014

A bit lighter than last week's post - a new baby and 3 more on the way?

If you didn't read last weeks rant, you should go back and do so if you are interested in topics like fraud and corruption.  For those of you who did read it,  I thought I would give you a treat this week with some photos taken today at the baby home and toddler home.

We got a sweet little baby girl this week whose name is Eunice.  That is the third girl in 11 days who has been sent to by the Social Welfare Department.  There are also three baby boys who we have been contacted about, but their investigations are still pending so we may have a total of six new children in just two weeks.  Eunice is the 56th child to call Project Canaan "home".

Sweet baby Eunice

Chicken for lunch at the Labakhetsiwe Toddler home.

Andrew loves his drumstick.
Eunice has never eaten so well in her life.

Deborah, Ian and Eve

Nathan, Lucy and Peter




Gabriel on a preschool field trip to the farm.  Thank you Amber for the awesome photo!
We are now asking for more people to sign up to be a monthly donor for the children who live on Project Canaan.  We do not have any funding for the next three children. If you can help, please do so today so that we don't have to say "no".

US Monthly donor Angels -
Canadian Monthly donor Angels -

Live from Swaziland ... life is good.


Saturday, May 17, 2014

Corruption, fraud, lying – and even using a suffering child to get food?

Posters found at every border crossing.

I have wanted to write this blog for almost a month now, but have had to calm myself so that it wasn’t just a disorganized rant with finger pointing and tongue-lashing.  Instead, it will be an organized rant with the goal to shed light on corruption in Africa, shame the people who will read this and know that I am speaking about them (while not naming them), and ask for prayer for ALL who serve on this continent and struggle with this, but may not be able to share it openly.

I am not speaking of corruption at the highest levels of government or the misuse of international funds that so often are called in to question and help with the term “bottomless pit” when referring to helping in Africa.   I am referring to people who we trust(ed) and care(d) for who have stolen, embezzled and committed fraud against this Ministry and God.

Here are a few things I have learned in the past 30 days that you might find interesting.

Ghosting – Ghosting is when someone gets paid for working at the end of the month, but that person doesn’t exist.  It requires the Manager to fraudulently sign in to work each and every day and then collect the pay at the end of the month.  While checks and balances must be in place, at some point individual trust of Senior Management must be established.

Fraud Definition is  “the crime of using dishonest methods to take something valuable from another person: a person who pretends to be what he or she is not in order to trick people: a copy of something that is meant to look like the real thing in order to trick people.”  So, If you steal letterhead from a company and if you write a letter on that letterhead and sign it with someone else’s name, who has the authority for that company, THAT IS FRAUD.  You should be in prison.

Skimming – Skimming is a type of fraud. It is when someone’s payroll slip is made out for too much money and the Manager knows that it is wrong, but gives the employee the correct amount and keeps the rest for him/herself.

Corruption –Definition is “In philosophical, theological, or moral discussions, corruption is spiritual or moral impurity or deviation from an ideal. Corruption may include many activities including bribery and embezzlement, Government, or 'political', corruption occurs when an office-holder or other governmental employee acts in an official capacity for personal gain.”    So, if a person in authority in government asks repeatedly for computers or other expensive gifts to benefit themselves or their families it is not a joke, it is wrong, and it is Corruption”.

In the past three years (and even more in the past 30 days) days we have learned about these terms first hand as we have uncovered stealing, lying, ghosting, skimming and embezzlement by people whom we trusted with our lives and this Ministry.  We are not the only people who have had this happen, and it certainly isn’t an African phenomenon. It is a global problem.  But it is heartbreaking and disheartening at the least, infuriating and (almost) defeating at best, especially when it is done by people who profess openly that Jesus is their Lord and Savior. You who know who you are – shame on you.

What I don’t understand is why our African brothers/sisters, who work with us day in and day out, knowing what we are doing to help here, would steal day after day and think its okay?   Do we just look like suckers?   Do they think that we have so much extra money that they are “entitled” to more of it than their pay?

Yesterday I experienced a new type of corruption, committed by an old woman who was using a baby to get food for herself. The child was reported to the Social Welfare department as being in grave danger.  The baby is maybe a year old and is severely malnourished.  He wears the same shirt day in and day out and it is never changed or washed.  He has no pants or socks or shoes.  The days are cold here now and the nights colder.  A court order was issued to have the child removed from the home of a woman who is not even related to the boy. She and a young man who was living with them refused to allow the child to go and instead asked for bread for themselves. One of our team members have given clothes for the child, but the child is never seen in them.  We think she sells them.  This is corruption too. A child is suffering terribly and my Swazi friends say the woman is using the child to beg from neighbors.  The police will go on Monday to see if something else can be done. 

Yes, I am frustrated, and hurt, and maybe even feeling a bit sorry for myself.  We have checks and balances in place at Project Canaan and will continue to increase those as we try to foresee how people will try to steal next.   Where is the check and balance for the other children in the same situation as the boy we are trying to help?  But at the end of the day I have to lay it all at the cross and then look in the mirror.  Sin is sin. I sin, we all sin.  It’s just easier to point out other people’s sin rather than looking at “the plank in my own eye”.

Who does stealing hurt?  Everyone.
So as I end this rant, I must stop and repent for all the things that I do to fall short of the glory of God.  I am far from perfect and I depend of the mercy of MY Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, every day and give thanks for His hand of protection on my life and for the provisions He has given me.  We are committed to working diligently to stretch every dollar that is given to Heart for Africa and to protect it from fraudulent behavior.   We are also committed to advocate for those who cannot advocate for themselves.  Please pray that this one-year-old boy will be released in to our care.

Live from Swaziland … I am glad to get that off my chest.


Saturday, May 10, 2014

Top 10 things my Mom taught me while I was growing up.

Family photo 2005 

Mothers all over the world are being honored tomorrow (Sunday, May 11th) for Mother’s Day and I want to honor my Mother who is living at a nursing home in Guelph, Ontario.  I got to see her last week during a short trip to Canada, and I am so happy that we were able to spend a day together. I am who I am because of her faith, her drive, her determination and her prayers for me.  This blog is for you mom.

Here are 10 things that my Mom taught me when I was growing up in Matheson:

10.   Lying is never worth it and you will always get caught (!).
9.     Peanut butter and tomato is a great sandwich combination
8.     The best way to clean a dead partridge is to put it on its back, stand on its wings and pull its legs out.
7.     Go to the Symphony as often as you are able.
6.     Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.
5.     Always finish your antibiotics.
4.     An adopted child is loved just as much as a biological child (and I know that for sure having been adopted and now having 53 little ones who I call my own!)
3.      Trust is freely given, but very costly to lose.
2.      The answer “no” is just a cry for more information.
1.      Don’t eat yellow snow.

Thank you Mom for all you taught me. I miss you and love you.

Live from Swaziland … I am blessed.


PS – if you haven’t bought your mom a Mother’s Day gift I have the PERFECT idea!  Buy your Mom a Block for the next Children's Home on Project Canaan.  In the US you can click here.  In Canada click here.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

OH Canada! Our home and native land. (This blog is written in "Canadian" eh?).

While I always call Swaziland “home”, there is no question that Canada feels like home as soon as we step off the airplane.  The first sign to greet us is a photo of Mayor Rob Ford welcoming us to his fine city.  The first news we heard was that Mayor Rob Ford had just checked himself in to a Rebab facility for cocaine, alcohol and stupidity (my blog – I can say what I want).

The Toronto Raptors are in Game 7 of the NBA Playoffs against the Brooklyn Nets.  While we have never heard of the Brooklyn Nets, the Raptors have clearly been practicing their game since they first opened the franchise during our ONYX Marketing days in 1995.  Go team go. 

We went to dinner at Milestones and saw that the game between the Montreal Canadians and the Boston Bruins playing on the TV behind the bar.  I thought I was having a flashback to May 10, 1979, when during  Game 7 of the NHL semifinals, the Bruins were whistled for a too-many-men penalty.  Many years later I was hosting a dinner party with Mario Tremblay and Michele Bergeron when this controversial topic came up.  Our friendly dinner party turned heated and almost came to blows in a matter of seconds!  And here we are again.  The Habs vs. the Bruins.

Ian, Spencer and I are only here for a few days to visit friends and family so we had to plan our eating very carefully and strategically so that we could include Tim Hortons, The Keg, Swiss Chalet and a trip to Loblaws to get Cheez Whiz, Kraft Peanut Butter, Ketchup chips, Jos Louis and dill pickle chip dip.   This is not a weight loss trip – don’t judge.

It was great to see friends from so many different parts of our past lives.  We had an “open gathering” at The Keg and saw friends from our Grenville Christian College days (where Ian and I went to High School), from ONYX Marketing Group days, of course my lawyer from 1988 to 2004, our Canadian Board of Directors, our neighborhood on Archerhill Court and people who have been our closest friends since I landed in Toronto in 1985.  

Tim and Kathryn

Ruth Noble
Louis call 225 please!
We also got to visit with my mom at her nursing home in Guelph and got to set up a Skype call between her and Chloe in Taiwan. Oh the joy of high speed internet!  While mom can’t really hear us and there is a new dementia setting in, it was really great to see her and watch her enjoy Spencer’s photos and video from his company called Cirque Freaks.  She is a very proud Grandma.

Spencer and Uncle Al
The gang.
Spencer, Sydney and Alexis
Ralph and Judy
I love being back in Canada. The water coming out of the tap is cold.   The people want to have interesting and reasonable conversations that won’t lead you to a possible sink hole where you might unknowingly make a bi-partisan statement that changes the trajectory of the conversation, and possible friendship.

Kim Skyping with Chloe

Today we are heading downtown to the Royal Alexander theatre to see a live performance of “We will Rock You” – 24 songs from the band “Queen” (my favorite band of all time).  The irony that Freddy Mercury, who is arguably one of the most brilliant musicians of our time, was one of the first public people to die of HIV/AIDS in America, is not lost on me.

Tonight we will have a family reunion with the Maxwell clan and enjoy a few laughs and family memories.  A great time will be had by all.

Spencer with cousins Ella and Jack.
Ian and his sister Laura and her son Jack.
Thanks for reading this. If you are not Canadian and made it this far, I say “Merci beaucoup”.  

Live from Toronto … we are heading back to Tim Horton’s for a Bear Claw.